If you can’t travel wide and far this Eid, then select a destination across the Emirates that boasts authentic Arabic design, hospitality and, of course, cuisine.
With shorter working hours and a long weekend on the horizon, it’s prime time to book a weekend break. In the years previous, you may have spent Eid weekend jetting off around the world to get a taste of an entirely new culture – even just for a few days.
But in 2021, things are different. Although not quite so stringent as last year, many of us are still choosing to stay put for the next few months. So why not spend the Eid weekend reconnecting with traditional Arabian culture, instead? Whether you’ll be celebrating or not, here are the destinations in the UAE to consider staycationing in over Eid weekend.
11 staycation spots it the UAE with traditional Arabic flair
Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai
Connecting with the rural landscape of the UAE – the luxe edition. That’s what Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai is serving up, and we definitely want a slice. Because for those who love the idea of feeling the warm sand between their toes and the sounds of peaceful wilderness filling their ears – but not the notion of sleeping bags and portable loos, this is the resort for you. Luxury accommodation, an incredible spa, and service that outshines the rest make for a worthy weekend away.
Bedouin Oasis Desert Resort, Ras Al-Khaimah
Get back to basics with a little Bedouin-style living. The word references the nomadic Arabs who lived in the desert, and is a rich part of the history of the UAE. For a little taste of what that life might have been like, head out to this camp to experience it for yourself – even if just for the weekend. Deemed luxury in the middle of nowhere, (okay, so the experience might not be the exact same) the campsite has tent options for different party sizes, plentiful desert activities, and an evening barbeque for guests to enjoy together.
Arabian Nights Village, Abu Dhabi
Just the name of this resort summons dreamy visions of evenings spent among the sandy dunes under the stars… and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you book a night at this Abu Dhabi resort. Rather than tents, however, traditional Emirati-style dwellings are enclosed within the desert pocket marked by two tall turrets – replicating the historic architecture of the region – that greet you on arrival. Arabic hospitality is best presented at Al Maqam, the authentic dining area serving up local as well as international cuisine at Arabian Nights Village.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Abu Dhabi
Located 90 minutes from the city centre, this makes for a genuine departure from daily life as you settle in for the long weekend. Several accommodation options on offer, but the pool villas are the wow factor at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Resort, Abu Dhabi. Standing apart from the courtyards and fountains that host the rooms and suites, the villas face the sunset to allow guests to enjoy the golden hour in their private plunge pool. By day, the wellness and meditation centre is a must; healing is brought to the mind and body via traditional Middle Eastern remedies combined with Thai expertise. By night, the varied dining option (as far as desert destinations go) will keep your tastebuds tantalised all weekend.
The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah
Stone-hued courtyards, mashrabiya-style patterning and lanterns for lighting; this Sharjah hotel mimics the design and architecture of the historic Arab world, despite its one-year-old status. Yet it’s already become a must-visit – helped by the launch of the UAE’s most lavish couple’s package which included yacht transfers, a private island picnic and personalised engraved jewellery for the pretty price of AED250,000. But you can easily enjoy a much more down to earth (and affordable) staycation at The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah, being sure to soak up the local culture by visiting nearby museums of heritage, calligraphy, Islamic civilization and more.
Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai
With the Burj Khalifa – the symbol of modern, globalised Dubai – in the skyline, it’s hard to imagine that a pocket of pre-industrialised Emirati identity lies just 10 kilometres away. If you want to reconnect with Arabic culture this Eid, then head down to Old Dubai to explore aged structures, authentic gold souks and dhow boats essential to the region’s pearl diving tradition. Make it more than a day trip by staying at Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai; bring the whole family (there’s a vintage playground and connecting rooms on offer) and dine in Saba, which serves up Emirati-inspired dishes in with an option of traditional majlis seating. Ideal for evening iftars.
Telal Resort Al Ain
Once home to the nomadic Bedouin tribes of the Emirates, Telal Resort on the outskirts of Al Ain is another luxury desert offering. With only seven heritage rooms, three heritage suites and 14 tent-style private villas, there’s an intimate, boutique-y feel here. On site, soak up sunrays in the shallow outdoor pool, dip into the sunken pool in the Desertology Spa, or browse digital and print books in the on-site library. To quench your thirst for historical insights, head to nearby Zaman Lawal Heritage Village, (which translates to mean ‘old times’) complete with a traditional Emirati souk, a restaurant serving Arabic cuisine, and miniature museums detailing the importance of date palms and pearl diving to the region.
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, Dubai
Famous for its desert-overhanging infinity pool, that’s just the tip of what Bab Al Shams Desert Resort has to offer. Arabian flair comes in the form of yellow-washed courtyards with archways to walk through and ceramic pots readily on display, suites with oriental rugs, metal bathtubs, hanging lanterns, and majlis-style seating, and of course rooftop restaurant, Al Sarab. An evening there is a must – work your way through mezze, listen to traditional music by a live performer and watch the desert skies darken. This hotel is especially great for Dubai residents as it’s just a 45-minute drive from the city centre, and for keen cyclists as Al Quadra Cycle Track is right on its doorstep.
Al Wathba, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Abu Dhabi
All the wonders of the local landscape, but with the best sand-set pool about. Stretching out through the resort towards the open desert, swimming between the palm trees and ceramics displays is sure to relax mind and soul. For those who are in want of a spa weekend, this is the desert resort for you. The Saray Spa at Al Wathba, A Luxury Collection Hotel, is inclusive of 11 treatment rooms with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, salt rooms, snow caves, an ice-cold bucket room, a traditional Turkish hammam and a whirlpool, with signature facial, massage and Hamman treatments. Bliss.
The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
Farmhouse, the rustic restaurant with recipes showcasing wild meats and homegrown vegetables. Moorish, the Morocco-inspired eatery serving national classic with a Mediterranean twist. Kan Zaman, the home of grilled meat and endless mezze options cooked al fresco. Moon Bar, the only place to sip the golden hours away, perched above the treetops. Kaheela, à la carte and buffet fare from the Middle East and India – the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert is the luxe desert offering with the foodie options to match. Enjoy the Bedouin-style oasis without ever feeling the need to leave – with room comforts, desert activities and dining options galore.
Al Badayer Retreat, Sharjah
Located near one of the biggest sand dunes in the region, the desert lifestyle soon engulfs you upon arrival at Al Badater Retreat. Tents or luxury hut, this grounding staycation experience brings you closer to Emirati traditions without stripping you of all the comforts of modern living – high-speed WiFI and cable TV is readily available, after all… But when not fixated on your tech, spend the days enjoying the wellness facilities, swimming in the indoor pool or riding horseback in the desert. On-site restaurant Nizwa has a menu comprised of cuisines influenced by destinations from the Silk Route.